Vacation reading, part 3
This was a nice little 25 page essay on how we view our children in the faith. The author argues (1) that our children are in covenant with God, as children of believers, and thus to be baptized, since God’s promises of salvation to us and our children carried through from Abraham (Gen 17) to the early church (Acts 2:39). Then the author asserts that (2) each child must embrace Christ himself, which is conversion/belief. But (3) parents or the church can pressure or impose an artificial point of conversion upon a child, seeking to evangelize them and have them pray the sinners prayer over and over. This results in the child doubting his faith and sincerity of his conversion. This was one of the better sections of the essay (pgs 20-23). Next, Smallman argues in good Presbyterian manner, that (3) regeneration must precede that conversion, and regeneration is symbolized in baptism. So parents are to bring their children in faith to Jesus, who will not turn them away, by baptizing them. He wades into the baptismal regeneration issue, coming out clean. Baptism does not automatically save or regenerate the baptized. But neither is baptism merely a family celebration. He quotes Archibald Alexander, president of Princeton 150 years ago, at this point, which I found worth reprinting. It shows there used to be a time when Reformed people weren’t afraid to speak of baptism and regeneration together, connecting the two, while still denying Catholic (or Lutheran?) baptismal regeneration:
“If piety may commence at any age, how solicitous should parents be for their children, that God would bestow His grace upon them, even before they know their right hand from their left; and, when about to dedicate them to God in holy baptism, how earnestly should they pray that they might be baptized with the Holy Ghost – that while their bodies are washed in the emblematic laver of regeneration, their souls may experience the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. If such sentiments expressed above be correct, then may there be such a thing as baptismal regeneration; not that the mere external application of water can have any effect to purify the soul; nor that internal grace uniformly or generally accompanies this external washing, but that God, who works when and by what means He pleases, may regenerate by His Spirit the soul of the infant, while in His sacred name, water is applied to the body.”
Smallman concludes that (4) children should profess their faith individually in church, and thus be admitted to the Lord’s Table. I’ve come to a different point of view, that Romans 10:9 does not require an official ceremony for each individual in the time of corporate worship. Children profess their faith in their participation in corporate worship, saying the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer, for instance. Also, the author assumes the public profession of Romans 10:9 is linked to Communion. But there is no basis for this, and all those who are baptized should be welcome to the Table, unless they reject the faith, not showing signs of belief and repentance, in which case they should after a time be disciplined and kept from the table. 1 Corinthians 11:28 is not saying we should keep children from the table, since they can’t understand it maturely yet; it condemns adults who hypocritically partake of the meal of unity while being divisive in practice. Smallman does note correctly that (1) the NT does not lay out all the specifics of how children entered the church, and that (2) those who profess faith aren’t “joining church,” since they were already members before. A good read, overall, especially for those new to the church or to the Reformed understanding of covenant. Check it out here.